Gaultier and Massaro clinch British Open titles

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Gregory Gaultier.

Gregory Gaultier became the oldest winner of the British Open since Hashim Khan in the late 1950s when he beat Nick Matthew, the oldest finalist since that era, in a four-game final on Sunday.

The 34-year-old Frenchman’s 8-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 win over the 36-year-old Englishman earned him his third British Open title and made him the oldest ever world number one on a ranking system which began in the 1970s.

Gaultier destroyed opponents so efficiently in the earlier rounds that Matthew came to the final having competed for two-and-a-half hours longer than his rival.

By the third game his movement was beginning to slow.

There was trouble for Gaultier when he was admonished by the referee for taking his opponent’s space late in the second and warned that next time he would lose a conduct stroke.

But gone are the moments when Gaultier would sometimes lose concentration, and an immediate surge of eight points in a row which carried him to 6-0 in the third game irrevocably swung the direction of the match.

Laura Massaro became the first English woman in 58 years to defend the British Open twice when she beat surprise finalist, Sarah-Jane Perry, her seventh-seeded compatriot, by 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6.

It was Perry’s first World Series final and by far the biggest final of her career, whereas the 33-year-old Massaro was a former British Open champion, a former world champion, a former world  number one, and was playing her fourth British Open final in five years.

The disparity in experience was soon apparent.

It was the first time in four years that Egypt — which has three of the top five men in the top ten, and three of the top four women — had failed to produce a finalist.

However, the outcomes may be very different at the World Championships at El Gouna on the Red Sea in a fortnight’s time.

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WATCH: Ashour opens up about injury concerns

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Ramy Ashour was forced to retire from his semi-final match against Greg Gaultier at the British Open on Saturday.

The Egyptian lost the first set 11-9 and was unable to carry on. The decision to withdraw from the encounter couldn’t have been easy for the 2013 British Open champion who came back brilliantly to beat Mohamed Abouelghar 10-12, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Ashour, arguably one of the most talented players to ever pick up a squash racquet, spoke to Joey Barrington in a video on PSA – World Tour’s Facebook page about the condition of his hamstring.

The fifth-seed revealed the unique circumstances of his injury that has left doctors and physios bamboozled.

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French duo Derail Egyptian title defence

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French duo Gregory Gaultier, Men’s World No.3, and Camille Serme, Women’s World No.4, derailed the challenge of 2016 tournament winners Mohamed ElShorbagy and Nour El Sherbini to come through two dramatic and enthralling semi-final encounters at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions on Wednesday.

Inside Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, Gaultier, the 2009 champion, prevailed 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7 in an 84-minute encounter with 2015 and 2016 winner ElShorbagy that had the theatrics, drama and intrigue befitting a Broadway classic.

The 34-year-old strutted extravagantly around court, playing with pace, precision and guile to take a 2-0 lead, delighting the crowd with his theatrical celebrations before a contentious referee decision at 8-7 in the third swung the match. The Frenchman capitulated, first mentally and then physically – as a troublesome left glute hampered his movement – allowing ElShorbagy to level 2-2.

But a stunned crowd, silenced by what they were witnessing, watched on as Gaultier, playing on one leg, displayed all the traits of his ‘General’ moniker to regain control and seal a dramatic victory.

“I felt my glute go during my match with Tarek (Momen) and it was sore this morning – but after warming up today it was fine and I had no problem in those first two games,” said Gaultier.

“In the third game I could feel it tighten and then at 8-7 that decision should have gone my way and I lost my dynamic. I could have gone through to win 3-0 and then it was 2-2. At that point I just wanted to shake hands – I was in a lot of pain.

“But my coaches told me just to fight for every point.

Gaultier will face Egypt’s World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad in the title-decider after he produced a sublime performance to beat James Willstrop in straight games while it was Gaultier’s compatriot Serme who captured attention in the Women’s draw with a 3-1 defeat of World No.1 El Sherbini.

Serme beat World No.2 Nouran Gohar on Thursday and injected pace from the off on Friday to unsettle El Sherbini, working her favoured backhand with relentless accuracy, to win 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-6 and secure her first appearance in the iconic event’s title-decider.

“I was so focused on the match and making sure I played as well as I could that it hasn’t really sunk in that I’m into the final yet,” said 27-year-old Serme.

“I dreamt of playing this event – the venue is unbelievable – so it’s amazing to know I will be playing in the final here tomorrow with a chance to win. I’ve beaten the #1 and #2 players so I have to take confidence that I’m playing some of my best ever squash.

“I feel like there’s still improvements to be made but I’m on the right track. Tomorrow will be a different challenge again so I’ll give it my best and see what happens – it’s very exciting.”

Serme will face England’s Laura Massaro, 2014 runner-up, in the decider, ensuring a new Women’s champion will be crowned.

Results – Men’s Semi-finals: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) bt [1] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) 3-2: 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-7 (84m)
[2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt James Willstrop (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 (42m)

Draw – Final
[3] Gregory Gaultier (FRA) v [2] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Results – Women’s Semi-finals: 2017 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) bt [1] Nour El Sherbini (EGY) 3-1: 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 11-6 (49m)
[4] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [11] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) 3-0: 11-6, 11-6, 11-9 (40m)

Draw – Final
[5] Camille Serme (FRA) v [4] Laura Massaro (ENG)

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